Will man-made waves help Zephyr get its OceanKamp project through?
Disneyland has relied on themed neighborhoods like Fantasyland or Tomorrowland for decades. Now developers who want to build big in Oceanside have also tied their housing projects to enticing themes.
Orange County’s Integral Communities pitched an “agritourism” mini-farm theme for its 585-home North River Farms project.
Park City Utah climbing wall perched above a pool is inspiration for OceanKamp in Oceanside.
Encinitas-based Zephyr Partners has tethered its proposed mixed-use 92-acre OceanKamp master-planned community to an active life. “We are dedicated to surfing, skating, climbing, biking, health and wellness,” says Zephyr chief operating officer Chris Beucler. A resort hotel will be surrounded by a group of permanent Airstream Trailers, a wave-making lagoon, hiking and biking trails, and a 50-foot scaling wall that curves over one of three pools. OceanKamp’s active diversions will mix with more traditional residential, commercial and office buildings. “We live in an experience-seeking economy,” says Beucler.
And the OceanKamp plans still coming together includes up to 700 attached homes.
North River Farms’ agritourism pitch didn’t work for some 80 Oceanside residents who said the plan was more sprawl than rustic. On December 20 those volunteers dropped off more than 12,000 signatures they collected demanding the city of Oceanside reverse its November 6 approval of North River Farms. Once the county registrar verifies that at least 9,609 of those signatures are real (10 percent of Oceanside’s registered voters), the Oceanside city council can either reverse its approval, or put the question on the November 3, 2020 ballot allowing Oceanside voters to decide the fate of North River Farms.
Zephyr says it will welcome local shapers like Chemistry Surfboards.
Would those same irate citizens move to torpedo OceanKamp and its 700 residences and its man-made wave lagoon? “I don’t think so at all,” says Cindy Rocco, one of those who volunteered to collect anti-North River Farms signatures. “I heard [Zephyr] is out there getting community feedback. The only issue I hear about them is the volume of water they will need.”
Water is a challenge for OceanKamp’s proposed wave park. At a December 18 community meeting at Oceanside’s El Corazon senior center, Zephyr’s Beucler told some 50 locals that it will take seven million gallons of fresh water initially to fill the wave lagoon. It will then need an estimated 18 million gallons a year for replenishment due to evaporation.
One homeowner who lives near the proposed site wondered why she has employed household water conservation for years while this wave lagoon gets to swallow up millions of gallons.
City of Oceanside employees oversee the preliminary tallying of signatures to reverse the North River Farms project.
“I would not compare the water usage with this to that of a single-family residence,” says Beucler. “The usage for this is significantly less than that for an active 18-hole golf course. If you compare this to other recreational activities that use water, this is significantly less.” OceanKamp project manager Michael Grehl adds, “The wave basin will require far less water annually than a golf course requires in one month.”
If water is an OceanKamp concern, so are massive amounts of dirt. The property bounded by the Oceanside airport, Mission Avenue and the San Luis Rey River was previously used for a four-screen drive-in theater complex and then for an outdoor swap meet. In order to accommodate permanent buildings, most of the 92 acres needs to be topped with five feet of fill dirt to take it out of its natural flood plain status.
As San Luis Rey Valley residents have known for months, bulldozers are constantly bringing in imported fill dirt to the OceanKamp site. Beucler says Zephyr is in the middle of an 18-month process to import 900,000 yards of dirt that must be completed before any building can begin.
Beucler says he doesn’t appreciate a comparison between OceanKamp and North River Farms. “I don’t understand how the two events that are so different are compared in the same article.”
He says that OceanKamp residences could go up to 50 feet, which potentially means five-story buildings. He admitted that 700 was the number of attached units most often “bandied about” for OceanKamp’s residential component. “We plan to stick with the 29 units per acre which is allowed for Oceanside’s Community Commercial Zoning [plan].”
Beucler made it clear that unlike initial press accounts, OceanKamp is not just a wave pool and that as far as Zephyr is concerned, housing must be a part of the project in order for it to proceed.
To bring home the point that OceanKamp would be wedded to the local surf community, Beucler says that there will be an on-site shaping bay where the local surfboard shapers would be welcome to come and show OceanKamp residents and visitors how they make their boards.
Beucler claims he has had “multiple discussions” about moving the California Surf Museum to the OceanKamp site, relocating from the city-owned building on Pier View Way in downtown Oceanside.
Surf Museum volunteer Rick Wilson and Museum store manager Camile Cacas say they have never heard that their museum may move from its home of two decades. Sergio Madera is Oceanside’s main planner charged with interfacing with Zephyr on OceanKamp. He says he has never heard of the plan to move the California Surf Museum to the OceanKamp site.
Beucler declined to say who he has spoken with about moving the museum.
A recent article in Forbes magazine indicated that Southern California is about to be inundated with three new wave parks, all planned for greater Palm Springs.
“OceanKamp is much more than a wave park,” says Beucler. “It is way more than that. It is a master-planned community.” Yet he still speaks glowingly of a “synergy” with the local surf industry.
Willie Smith is a partner in Chemistry Surfboards, one of a dozen surfboard shapers housed in an industrial park a mile southwest of the OceanKamp site.
“They call it a surf lagoon,” says Smith. “I call it a land grab for people who want to gobble up that land and create sellable real estate. They want to attract outdoorsy type people with buzzwords like yoga, climbing, and mountain biking.”
Smith says he is longtime friends with Cheyne Magnusson, a onetime pro surfer and personality on MTV’s “Maui Fever” who helped design the successful BSR wave park in Waco, Texas and who is involved with creating the new Palm Springs Surf Club. “Cheyne is like, ‘Dude, you don’t understand how hard it is to pull power and water and all the permitting necessary to build something of that magnitude’. And he’s even building something in a pre-existing water park.” The Palm Springs Surf Club will be located in the now-closed Wet ‘n Wild water park.
Smith says he visited the world-famous Kelly Slater Surf Ranch near Fresno as a guest. “It is absurdly priced. It’s like $30,000 to rent it for the day or $50,000 during the summer. But they roll out the red carpet for you. They give you drinks and this killer farm-to-table mega food spread. I have to assume [OceanKamp] will be much more reasonably priced.”
Smith says Chemistry Surfboards would be happy to be a guest shaper at OceanKamp’s guest shaping bay. “Why not? They are good at creating hype. You get to showcase your skills.”
Beucler says OceanKamp meetings between Oceanside locals and Zephyr will continue. He says he hopes to hear from local groups who want hear about OceanKamp. Zephyr hopes to have OceanKamp open by 2022.